Search Engine Journal are carrying an article about some of Google's more interesting technical snaffus and errors including
- An engineer accidentally deleting the entire test index
- Rolling out a tweak to font-size that accidentally redirected millions of pages to Facebook
The various sources in the article report the incidents differently, with some very keen to play down the extent of the issue and the impact it would have had. What we do know is that Google suffered a number of technical problems in recent months that slowed down, or stopped, indexation of new content and left Google's new Search Console running behind in terms of data.
Now, whilst there may be a little schadenfreude at play when writing about technical mishaps at Google (because hey, if even they have problems...) it does lead to an interesting question.
What would happen if Google went down?
For the purposes of writing a blog and not a disertation, we'll think purely in terms of Google the search engine and exclude services like GMail, Google Calendar, and Google Compute. (Not that it doesn't cause a global meltdown if either GMail or Google Calendar glitch).
In terms of losing the search engine though, what would happen...
Well, I think the majority of people who simply move to another search engine. Bing, Yahoo!, and DuckDuckGo would be the likely winners, spurred on by who get the most weight behind them on social media as the go-to alternative.
Google, with every minute lost, are losing money from ads that aren't being served and potentially losing customers as people change their default search engine. It's a race against time at Google HQ to work out what has gone wrong and why.
Eventually, the system comes back up. The majority of users, I would expect, will revert back to the search engine they know and trust. Competitors will make some hay with advertising campaigns (if the downtime was long enough to be mainstream newsworthy) and, if you listen carefully, you may be able to hear the sound of heads rolling inside Google HQ.
But, do we really care? No, probably not. Google are being enough to take care of themselves. What we should think about is what happens to the rest of us.
How long could your business survive without Google?
The incident that really caught my interest when it came to Google technical errors, glitches, and downtime was the temporary loss of some 18% of the index a weeks back. Doesn't sound like too much, until you realise that 18% of 48 trillion pages. In some instances, it's likely that entire sites were wiped off the map. What would mean for your business if you disappeared from Google for a month?
No Google organic traffic. No Google Ads cost per click traffic.
Would you survive?
Why you need to diversify your online traffic
We're all guilty of putting a little too much focus on Google. SEO people do it. Data scientists do it. When one source of traffic accounts for so much of what we deal with every day, of course we talk about it. I had to force myself when I was writing The Truth About SEO to look outside of "The Google Bubble" - even though I knew that most of my readers only wanted to read about how to get to the top of Google.
But it's never good to have all of your eggs in one basket. Businesses rarely have only one social media channel, so why look at only one search engine?
If you're currently relying on Google for the majority of your online business, you should definitely diversify. We would recommend looking to drive at least 20% of your organic traffic through platforms other than Google. Would you happy losing 80% of your traffic? Of course not. But if you don't diversify, you risk losing 100%.